Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I survived!

Day one
When the alarm went off at 5.45 am, it was not quite the shock I’d been expecting. In fact, I had woken naturally at 5.43. I felt as if I’d been sleeping ‘on the edge of my bed’ all night.
The roads, although busy, were reasonably benign. Despite this, we found that through sheer weight of traffic, we did need the full two hours that we had allowed for what is usually a journey of just over an hour.

I arrived confidently at main reception, told them that I was starting today, and they just waved me through. I marched up to the department reception – to find huge shutters closed across it. Ah. The only other access point requires a security pass – which of course, I didn’t have.
Back at the main reception, the receptionist greeted me with “They’re closed, aren’t they”. I gave her my details, sat down, and watched her ‘phone a succession of numbers – seemingly with no joy. Finally, a few minutes later, a petite woman with short grey hair and glasses came to greet me. I hadn’t seen her before.
“Sorry,” she said. “We’re a bit at sixes and sevens. Lots of people off sick.”
I followed her into the office, where she handed me over to someone else I’d never met before, a lady with long hair, a broad smile and very quiet voice.
“I think that might be your desk,” she offered tentatively. “We’ve got a team meeting at 9:30; it would be good if you could be there.” And off she went.
I filled my first half hour by finding my way to personnel services to sort out my registration and so on, arriving back just in time for the meeting. People started to rush off, and I pretty quickly realised that they probably were going to the team meeting; I probably wasn’t going to be escorted by anyone; and I’d better follow someone quick if I wanted to know where the meeting was.
It was a big team. About 25 people were seating themselves around a table. Someone smiled at me and patted the seat next to them. Such small gestures can make such a huge difference. I smiled gratefully, and sat next to her.
The meeting got started, I was formally welcomed, and people around the table introduced themselves. The final person I recognised as the Director who’d interviewed me.
She said she had something to tell us. She glanced down at the table, and took a deep breath. I wondered what on earth was coming. Everyone looked nervous.
“I’m afraid G has lost the baby,” she said.
G is my new manager. She was probably about 6 or 7 months pregnant and was due to go on maternity leave in February.
Despite her obvious personal distress, G had found time to think about loose ends at work. She’d given a long list of things to tell the team. I came top of her list, with an apology and reassurance that my predecessor would show me the ropes. There was, of course, no need for the apology.
My predecessor spent much of her day with me, at the expense of her own workload. She gave me a lot of information. By lunchtime, I was already reeling. By 3 o’clock, I was on my knees. I’m not used to working! I’d forgotten how hard it can be, especially when you’re listening all the time, and know absolutely nothing. It is a very long time since I’ve had to learn everything from scratch.
In the afternoon, I had a text from R. “I’ve got a meeting 5 to 7. Sorry. I’ll take you to the hotel when if finishes. Hope your day is going well.”
My new security pass wouldn’t operate the doors until the next day, so I had to wait out in the atrium, or I’d be locked in the office. I sat writing at one of the plastic café tables, surrounded by the whirr and clatter of the cleaners, and the echoing chatter of a handful of students.
Finally, at 7:10, R called. “I’m so sorry!” He sounded tired.
He left me at the hotel, as he was having dinner with some of his new team. I sat alone in the dining room. I hate sitting in a hotel dining room full of ‘corporate’ people. I overheard a bloke at a nearby table on the phone, “Daddy’s still eating dinner. So you be a good boy, and go to bed now.” I reflected on how sad it was that this dining room was full of business men and women who were probably missing their children.
I was extremely relieved to get to bed.
Day Two
I attended a meeting of my direct team, which I mostly managed to follow, and found fascinating. We discussed PhD’s, student skills development (they have BLOGs for staff and students!) and talks to first years to try and convince them that they need to start thinking about how they will use their University experience to help them manage their career when they leave.
The afternoon was dedicated to meeting the Alumni Development and Relations team. I was struck by how much work they do to raise funds from alumni to contribute to development of the University facilities, and to hardship funds for students who struggle with fees.
R picked me up at 5:30, and we went for something to eat before driving home. This turned out to be a very good plan, because we avoided traffic, and worked out that we got home only half an hour after we would have, had we left at 5:30.
Over a well-earned drink, we compared notes, and then went to bed at 9:30!
I am determined to stay in the same ‘time zone’ as Rick, so I got up at 6.00 am with him. It is now 10:45 and I am shattered!


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